The legislature’s investigation was politically motivated as evidenced by the fact that they sought to review only the executive and not other officials’ disclosures. Pointing out this inconsistency and hypocrisy was not an improper threat, but a matter of fairness.
One Ethics Commissioner termed the atmosphere around the county’s ethics investigation by the legislature as being “politically charged.” That it was. As soon as I became a republican, the Presiding Officer and many of his fellow democrats saw an opening to try to attack me politically at a time I was contemplating running for reelection. They took inaccurate information and sought to exploit it by initiating an investigation of the Executive’s financial disclosure. When asked if it was a witch hunt, they replied it was not about the Executive, it was about Ethics Commission’s handling of the financial disclosure process in general. I responded that if that were the case, the Presiding Officer should be looking not only at the Executive’s filings, but the filings of every county official (see attached).
A third party received financial disclosure forms of other officials, through the Freedom of Information process, so they could be compared to mine. This was significant because the media reports wrongfully suggested that I was remiss in not having my wife’s clients listed. After perusing the other forms, no other official had listed their clients either – and for good reason; there was no request or requirement on the forms or in the law that filers include a listing of clients (see the entire County form attached).
For example, County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki listed that he was obtaining side income as an accountant and through a fishing business. No clients were listed on his forms. At least six legislators listed businesses that either they, or their spouses, are engaged in, and not a single one listed any of their clients.
The point I was making to legislators is that my claim that clients were not required to be filed was bolstered by the fact that other county officials did not list them either. That is why it was necessary for the legislative panel to expand its review beyond just my forms. When I brought this up to legislators, some went public, claiming I was threatening them. This was not a threat. This was about fairness.
Additional relevant information regarding the forms filed by others is as follows:
- Sawicki redacted the name of the company for which his wife worked.
- One Legislator introduced legislation that expedited payments for not-for-profit organizations whose main lobbyist was the significant other of the sponsor legislator. This was not listed on the legislator’s disclosure forms, which raises the question whether the forms should require such disclosure.
- Other county legislators did not list their businesses’ accounts receivables.
Newsday wrongly suggested that individual’s had to list their company’s accounts receivables. This is ridiculous since accounts receivables in a business are not necessarily income to the individual filer. These business receivables will go to pay heat, electric, supplies and rent. Accountants concur with the interpretation that the form is seeking only the receivables for the individual and not their company. Yet, Newsday incorrectly suggested to the contrary. The section was intended to relate to loans or income owed directly to the individual.
These items are relevant because they show that there was confusion that filers had in filling out these forms. The need to properly change the forms could not be fully understood unless forms beyond just mine were examined. However, my political detractors had no true desire to change the process. They were simply looking for a vehicle, that being the investigative panel, to drip one negative report about me after another throughout the campaign season.
Contrary to one Legislator’s allegations, my conversation with him did not involve any improper threats. I told him that the legislation seeking an investigation of just my financial disclosure forms was politically motivated. It would be hypocritical to say the Executive’s forms should be reviewed but no one else’s should. Why was it acceptable to look into whether the Executive was listing clients of his spouse, yet neither the county comptroller nor any other legislator was listing their clients?
Unfortunately, the Grand Jury accepted the politically charged testimony of this legislator and claimed “Financial Disclosure forms were used by a county official in a failed attempt to end the legislature’s investigation into the ethics commission.” Firstly, the forms were obtained legally through the freedom of information process. Secondly, why would it be considered improper to expose the fact that the legislature was operating under a double standard?
Simply meeting with legislators to discuss this issue did not constitute threats. Indeed, I or others in my administration, sought to convince various legislators that we were correct on both the facts and the law. Personally, I met with legislators Nowick and Stern, and showed them the legal research that supported my position.
It was also our opinion that Legislator Romaine had potential conflicts regarding the ethics commission, especially regarding the potential installation of Anton Borovina as the attorney to investigate the ethics commission, since Borovina was the attorney for both Romaine and Sabatino in their cases before the commission.